Archive for category Meteorology

“If ancient folklore is to be believed”

Daily Express headline: RAIN TODAY COULD LAST FOR 40 DAYS

Actual story: “BRITAIN could be heading for a washout summer if ancient folklore is to be believed. Legend says that showers today, St Swithin’s Day, mean 40 days of rain to come.

Better headline: RAIN TODAY ALMOST CERTAINLY WON’T LAST FOR 40 DAYS

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The scientist’s not for turning

Scientists! What are these mysterious creatures? Well, The Independent (and, with the help of copy-paste, The Mail) certainly doesn’t know!*

Global warning: Scientists in U-turn as they claim extreme weather and climate change are linked

Experts have reversed their opinion after more than 20 years of reluctance to blame greenhouse gas emissions for extreme weather

Climate change is inextricably linked to the extreme weather that has wreaked destruction all over the world in the last ten years, scientists now claim.

Experts are convinced of a legitimate link between the two after more than 20 years of reluctance to blame greenhouse gas emissions for the heavy storms, floods and droughts which have made global headlines.

The controversial U-turn is a radical departure from the previous standpoint and was made by a new international alliance of climate researchers from around the world.

You hear that? All the scientists! All of them! Every single scientist used to say that extreme weather and climate change weren’t linked, then overnight, they all did a U-turn and now they all believe they are linked!

Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. While most scientists will never say that any given event was definitely caused by global warming (after all, no-one can say for sure whether, say, Katrina would have happened without climate change), plenty of researchers have published papers in reputable, peer-reviewed journals connecting climate change to hurricanes (Emmanuel 2005 (PDF), Webster et al 2005, Mann and Emmanuel 2006 (PDF)), flooding (Schrieder et al 2000, Christensen and Christensen 2003 (PDF)), heatwaves (Stott et all 2004, Diffenbaugh et al 2007 (PDF)), and pretty much every other form of extreme weather you can imagine. The connection between climate change and extreme weather is still debated, but there are certainly plenty of scientists have published research indicating the two are linked.

Secondly, this so-called U-turn isn’t even a U-turn! Instead, what a panel of climatologists called Attribution of Climate-Related Events (ACE) is looking at various extreme weather events over the last century – tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts – and working out whether climate change has made these sorts of weather more likely.** They are not yet saying that climate change has increased the risk of extreme weather, they’re still researching whether it could have! The scientists quoted by The Independent (and subsequently by The Mail) do say that they think climate change is causing severe weather, but as far as I can tell, these scientists have always made this connection. Peter Stott for example connected heatwaves to climate change back in 2004 (see the paper above), and Kevin Trenberth connected drought to global warming in the same year (PDF). Neither of these scientists has, as far as I can tell, U-turned.

Incidentally, the best rated comments on both articles are firmly denialist and, on The Mail‘s site, any comments that are pro-climate science have been downvoted (The Indie only lets you “like” comments, not dislike them). Good to see the astroturfers out in force.

* I’ve picked on The Mail largely because they’ve used words like “U-turn” and “reversal”. The Independent‘s coverage still makes the mistake of talking about scientists like we’re all one big hive mind, but at least they state that the previous opinion connecting climate change to extreme weather was “equivocal”.

** ACE formed in early 2009, so I’m not sure why they’re being reported as if they’re brand new.

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The Delingpole Escape Plan

(Why yes, I did write this post entirely for the pun.)

The Eco-fascists have taken over! So says James Delingpole, anyway. His proof?

Well, in October, Brussels Airport won an award for reducing its carbon emissions. A month later, it snowed.

This isn’t a new thing. It has been going on for years, since at least the 1992 Rio Earth Summit when Maurice Strong laid down the ground rules for the eco-fascist takeover of the world. It’s bit like that classic 2000AD “Future Shocks” story where the aliens that have invaded our planet unbeknownst to us turn out to be those innocuous-looking wire coat hangers we have in our cupboards. The battle for our freedom is already all but lost – and the stupid thing is, most of us didn’t even know we were fighting one.

So now – not in some imagined, paranoid fantasist’s future, but NOW – we live in a world where an airport is encouraged to place a higher priority on reducing its notional production of a harmless trace gas than it does in making provision for aeroplanes to be able to take off and land in inclement weather.

You may have noticed it was not snowing in October, and that it’s perfectly possible for an airport to offset its carbon emissions and clear away snow, and that the two events were completely unrelated. Shush!

Delingpole then moves onto the Met Office. The Met Office’s seasonal forecasts are always vague – as winter approaches, they generally make them more accurate. True enough, in the last few years, they’ve generally predicted that a warm winter was more likely than a cold one, and had to revise that as winter approached. Whether or not the Met Office was right has nothing to do with climate change however. A year is much too short to see global warming happen.

Delingpole quotes a Department for Transport report (pdf) which, he claims, shows the Met Office predicted there was only a 1 in 20 chance that this winter would be severe (which, of course, does not mean the same thing as simply “cold”). In fact, this is taken out of context – the report simply points out (p. 88-9) that in general, one winter in twenty is severe, and the fact that the last two years were severe does not necessarily mean they are clustering. The report after all was issued in July, long before the Met Office could say with any certainty what the weather would do.

Incidentally, the Met Office didn’t predict this winter would be mild. One of their computers predicted the winter would be mild, based on a limited set of data, but as the Met Office said at the time:

“This is not an official forecast, it’s data that would form part of a longer term prediction.

“If you look at the whole picture across north west Europe, there’s a higher chance of a cold winter than a warm one.”

Anyway, Delingpole gets someone to do the numbers for him, and finds that the odds of three severe winters is 1 in 8000 (presumably because that’s 1 in 20, to the power of three – not really the right way to do the sum in this case anyway), therefore the Met Office must be wrong. The old joke comes to mind of a guy who fires blindly into a wall, looks for a spot where several bullets have clustered together, draws a bullseye around them and declares himself a crackshot. Most winters of course are not severe, and two or three severe ones clustered together among mild ones, while a bit unlikely, isn’t as impossible as Delingpole claims, and itself shows nothing. If lots of winters were severe over decades, then that would prove the 1 in 20 winters is severe claim was inaccurate. On their own, three winters prove nothing. If you throw a coin and score three heads in a row, that doesn’t prove the coin is loaded, especially if the last few tosses had a good mixture of heads and tails. If you score a hundred heads in a row, then you should be suspicious.

Okay, that was a diversion, since the Met Office’s predictions had little to do with global warming. Anyway, remember those eco-fascists Delingpole was complaining about?

Heads are going to roll for this, they’ll have to. But however many heads do roll it won’t be enough. Always remember this: the Warmist faith so fervently held and promulgated by the Met Office is exactly the same faith so passionately, unswervingly followed by David Cameron, Chris Huhne, Greg Barker, the Coalition’s energy spokesman in the Lords Lord Marland, and all but five members of the last parliament. And also by the BBC, the Prince of Wales, almost every national newspaper, the European Union, the Royal Society, the New York Times, CNBC, the Obama administration, the Australian and New Zealand governments, your children’s schools, our major universities, our minor universities, the University of East Anglia, your local council….

Truly there just aren’t enough bullets!

Giving an airport a certificate? Fascist.

Shooting politicians, journalists, teachers and scientists because you disagree with them? Not fascist.

Good to know.

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It doesn’t snow in the summer

RAIL bosses made the farcical decision to take two de-icing trains out of service at the height of the big freeze, it emerged yesterday.

Hmm, you’re right, Express, that is a bit farc…

The locomotives were away for their annual service when the Arctic weather swept in.

Oh, you mean they were already being serviced before the big freeze started? Still, as the Express says, they should have serviced them in the summer, not the wint…

Network Rail said the two trains were 55 years old and were sent away at the end of the summer to be upgraded.

The process took longer than expected and “extra resources” were brought in from unaffected parts of the network. The company has 30 trains across the country responsible for keeping the railways free of ice.

Oh. In short, here’s a more accurate first paragraph:

RAIL bosses made the decision to take two de-icing trains out of service at the end of summer.

Shocking.

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The Express and The Mail step into the ring! Only one can leave! FIGHT!

For a while now, the Express has been running it’s “Time for Change Crusade“, in favour of Britain changing to Single-Double Summer Time (SDST) so we are 2 hours ahead of GMT in summer and one hour ahead in winter – equivalent to moving time zone by one hour from Western European Time to Central European Time (CET) (previous posts on the subject here) . A few weeks ago, The Sun too declared that it too wanted to “save Britain from Daylight Robbery“. Well, now a rival has stepped up to the plate;* via the medium of Peter Hitchens, the Mail has begun its “British Time Campaign” to stop the UK moving to CET (or “Berlin Time”, as they call it in flagrant violation of Godwin’s law).

Both sides are sadly up to their usual tricks in favour of their position to ludicrous extents – the Daily Express claims they have the backing of 29 million people based on a survey of a few thousand while the Daily Mail claims that people who support the change are useful idiots to some sort of evil “Bratwurst-eating” Frankfurt conspiracy.

So, in the interests of fair debate, here are the facts, laid out in as neutral a way as I can:**

Read the rest of this entry »

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Plunged into chaos

A cat and a dog

Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria! (Photo by PT, CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

You know those adverts for household gadgets where they make squeezing toothpaste or putting lids on pens look like some impossibly laborious chore? I think the the Daily Express watches them and thinks “We could do better than that!

BRITONS face a day of chaos tomorrow as the clocks turn back an hour, plunging the country into evening darkness.

WE’RE DOOMED.

Now, a disclaimer. If there was sufficiently strong evidence that double summer time would be beneficial to the country, then I’d be all for it. The problem is that when Portugal, a country in the same time zone as the UK, tried moving to European time during the mid-90s, the sun set so late in the evening that it interfered with sleep cycles, and insurance companies reported a rise in accidents, not a fall (PDF, p. 13-14). There may still be a case for changing the time zone, but it’s certainly not as clear cut as the Express would have you believe.

So anyway, CHAOS.

A third of us will oversleep, 20 per cent will wake up to a cold house after forgetting to change the central heating timer and one in eight will arrive at work late over the coming days.

Better start preparing that bomb shelter!

Research by energy company npower also found that almost half of parents say the change in daylight hours will affect their children’s sleep patterns.

It will take an average of three days to readjust, with 40 per cent of people polled saying it would be harder to get their children to school on Monday.

That’s all very good and well, but pushing the UK forwards a time zone won’t change that. We’ll still have a clock change and, as Portugal saw, double summer time is more disruptive to children’s sleep patterns.

In fact, everything the Express has said so far is just as bad for its own Crusade for Change as it is for the current scheme. These aren’t arguments for changing time zone, these are arguments for scrapping summer time altogether.

The warnings come as growing numbers of politicians, businesses and families back the Daily Express Time For Change crusade.

29 million of them, in fact. If you include the imaginary ones.

And as Tabloid Watch points out, yesterday the Express claimed 58% of people supported the change. Before the campaign began, 60% of people did. Growing numbers indeed.

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The Daily Express has 29 million imaginary friends

SUDDENLY, the nights are drawing in. The sky is filling with the smoky grey clots of churning vapour that herald the annual return of Boreas and his frigid kingdom of shade and bluster. Worst of all, men, women and children are forced to eat their tea in the dark because no-one has invented the light bulb yet.

From the darkness rises our saviour, St. Desmond, at the vanguard of the heroic Crusade for Change. Where the Daily Express leads, an army 29 million strong follows

Wait, 29 million? That sounds a bit much, surely? The turnout at the last general election was only 29.6 million – are you telling me as many people care about the Daily Express‘s “crusade” as care about national politics in general?

In fact, all that happened is that Santander carried out a survey, and 58% of those polled said that the government should look at the current Summer Time system. Not that they definitely agreed with the Express, just that they thought it might be worth checking. The Daily Express has then multiplied this figure by 50 million – a ballpark estimate of the population of England – and assumed that therefore 29 million people must be in favour.

Without being able to see the survey, there’s no way of knowing how representative of the British population this survey is. Already though, one thing seems clear; while the Express talks about 29 million Britons, it might be more accurate to say 29 million Englanders. Messing with British Summer Time is somewhat less popular in Scotland and the North of England, as the Daily Express itself secretly recognises.

Let’s look at some of the other findings of the study.

According to the study, 45 per cent will feel unusually depressed during the daylight-starved winter months.

Concerns are also mounting about children walking home in the dark and the danger of personal injury, with one in four people saying they feel more at risk as evenings draw in.

In addition, some 36 per cent – 17.7 million people – believe there is an increased chance of road traffic accidents, and one in four also insist they feel more at risk from burglary.

In other words, 3 in 4 do not feel more at risk, 64% of people did not say they believed there was an increased chance of road traffic accidents, and 3 in 4 do not feel at risk of burglary. Bringing seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) into this is a low blow – it appears to be caused not by clock changes, but just by the fact that there is less light overall during winter.

I’m not sure how much difference clock changes would have to some of those anyway. There is good evidence that “double summer time” reduces traffic accidents in England (but raises them in Scotland), but I couldn’t find any evidence about the others – there are some papers on whether clock changes can cause depression, but the conclusions look, well, inconclusive.

So, in the interests of improving the state of mathematics, I’m going to poll the entire world about whether the Daily Express needs remedial lessons on how to use statistics and surveys. That means potentially upwards of 6,877,939,067 voters, all weighing in. Lend us your opinion, have your say, and help my Crusade for Change!

(Hat tip to Exclarotive)

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